How do you solve a murder when you can't ask any questions? The gripping new thriller from the bestselling author of Stasi Child.
East Germany, 1975. Karin Müller, sidelined from the murder squad in Berlin, jumps at the chance to be sent south to Halle-Neustadt, where a pair of infant twins have gone missing.
But Müller soon finds her problems have followed her. Halle-Neustadt is a new town - the pride of the communist state - and she and her team are forbidden by the Stasi from publicising the disappearances, lest they tarnish the town's flawless image.
Meanwhile, in the eerily nameless streets and tower blocks, a child snatcher lurks, and the clock is ticking to rescue the twins alive . . .
1. If you could work with any other author, who would it be and why?
I’m not sure I could work with another author. I’m too much of a control freak! Within genre, possibly William Ryan as I’ve loved all his books. But fellow Bonnier author Chris Whitaker invents great characters, as evidenced by his fantastic debut Tall Oaks. So maybe Chris.
2. What would be a typical working day for you? When and where do you write?
I tend to write in mad spurts, and don’t follow the ‘write something every day’ maxim. So there isn’t really a typical day. I split my writing time between my garden log cabin in Twickenham and a caravan I bought on the Isle of Wight with the Stasi Child advance, specifically as a writing retreat. So when I’m writing a first draft, it can be for up to sixteen hours a day, though more usually eight to ten. The rest of the time I’m researching, promoting, rewriting, but not in a set daily pattern. The nature of the work changes with the publishing year. At the moment, with Stasi Wolf being published, I’m in promotion mode even though I’ve got a redraft of Book 3 I need to tackle.
3. What is the hardest part of the writing for you?
Rewriting and editing. I long for the day when an editor says ‘This is perfect, well done!’ Of course, it will never happen. But I find it agony working out how any changes will work on the rest of the book. You’re always terrified of bringing the whole house of cards down.
4. When and why did you first start writing?
My first memory is of trying to write my own version of Black Beauty when I was about five. In my era at school, ‘creative writing’ didn’t seem to be part of the English curriculum – and as a result I hated English Literature. After dropping out of a Geology degree, my first long piece of writing was my dissertation at Bristol Poly on Stalin’s purges. I then became a reporter on local papers, then a news editor at the BBC. In the early noughties I had my first stab at writing a novel – which I self-published with limited success – and then got down to it seriously when I joined the inaugural Crime Thriller MA at City University London in 2012. Why? With Stasi Child I wanted to escape from the day job – and I’ve been lucky enough to achieve that.
5. How did you come up with the idea for your book?
Stasi Wolf was inspired by a story I heard when researching Stasi Child about how East Germany’s secret police took over an investigation into baby murders at a Leipzig hospital. They wanted to be sure that news of the investigation didn’t leak out and alarm the public. That was the main thrust of the idea.
6. Are you a big reader? If so, what are you reading now?
To my shame, no. In many ways, I prefer watching crime series on TV. I do enjoy reading novels, but it tends to be on holidays. I was lucky enough to be sent a review copy of Arnaldur Indridason’s new one, The Shadow District, which I’ve just started. Next up is The Harbour Master by Daniel Pembrey and I also like the sound of Abir Mukherjee’s A Rising Man, so have just purchased that. Unfortunately, my TBR pile just grows and grows.
7. Do you have any advice for other aspiring writers?
Make sure your ideas are distinctive, because it’s a very crowded market, and concentrate on telling an engaging story. And ideally don’t set your crime series in East Germany as I don’t want any more competition!